Bamber Bridge and Atherton Collieries are having rather different seasons. Brig are a team filled to the brim with confidence in their push for the play offs. The Stripes, on the other hand, are still suffering from the stop-start form that has come to define their campaign.
Saturday's trip to the Sir Tom Finney Stadium would be a tough test, the Colls were under no illusions. The test was ultimately failed, however, following an uncharacteristically passive performance from Cooke's lads.
The hosts commenced proceedings with fire in their bellies and it was a tad overdue when they took the lead on eighteen minutes. A smart passing move bamboozled the Atherton defensive group. Finn Sinclair-Smith picked up a rushed clearance and the forward looped the ball into the back of the net. A fine finish, one incredibly similar to his effort earlier in the season at the Skuna Stadium.
Atherton's meek start was addressed following this set back. On the half hour mark Cooke's lads pushed Brig and were rewarded with a series of corners. All well placed, delivered at pace but with no end product evident. Good defending. Bailey Thompson was afforded a run-on goal but his effort coincided with an unfortunate bobble and sailed high and wide. The forward, it must be said, worked tirelessly as he led the attacking line.
The introduction of Marcus Cusani to the game seemed to bring a little more life to the Stripes' forward play. Before the winger could make an impact, though, Bamber Bridge doubled their advantage. Cooke and his management team were particularly disappointed as Paul Dawson headed home at the near post. Colls don’t concede many goals like that.
The Collieries, again, used this to gain a bit of momentum in the game. They attacked over and again but couldn't manage that final ball to see them through at goal. Bamber Bridge, it must be said, were incredibly professional in their management of the game. No panic, no stress - they soaked up pressure and played their way out. A team clearly hopeful of securing that playoff spot.
The only other major event to note was a red card for Brig's Mcauley Wilson. Bailey Thompson was sent through with quite a promising ball. Clumsily, the defender side swiped Thompson off the ball leaving the referee with no option - last man, clear goalscoring opportunity… early shower for you, son. Arran Pettifer’s resultant free-kick went narrowly wide of ex Colls Mon, Luke Hutchinson’s near post.
Fair play to Bamber Bridge, the league table didn't lie on this occasion and no complaints about the result. Colls, on the other hand, know what they need to do to improve and Cooke is looking ahead to Tuesday's trip to Radcliffe to do that.
The reality is you can't win every game in this division - there is no shame in a six point return from the last four games. Saturday was frustrating, but also a reminder that sometimes in football it is okay to be beaten by the better team.
Finally, it was a pleasure to welcome back Scott Sephton back on the scene after almost a year out through injury.
Colls:Mackenzie Chapman, Clive Smith, Gareth Peet, Oli Brown (Jesse Ebosele 77’), Danny Lafferty (C), Adam Rooney, Ethan Kershaw, Ben Hardcastle (Scott Sephton 89’), Bailey Thompson, Jack Lenehan (Marcus Cusani 46’), Arran Pettifer - Subs (unused): Cesaire Lingouba, Luca Defreitas-Hansen
Colls Mon of the Match: Adam Rooney, sponsored by the Colls Gals